?

Log in

No account? Create an account
So wrong it's right, so right it's wrong - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 03:22 am
So wrong it's right, so right it's wrong

I was listening the other night to a 17-minute, ultra-minimal, ultra-repetitive guitar pattern by Albert Nene on Gumboot Guitar: Zulu Street Guitar Music From South Africa. "What is that?" Hisae demanded, amazed at how scratchy, amateur, long and "wrong" it sounded. I explained it was South African music played for teams of booted Zulu miners to dance to. It sounds the way it does because it's been transferred to the guitar from traditional African instruments, in this case the musical bow.



The "wrongness" of the sounds and structures of African pop music are as appealing as the wrongness of the cassette sleeves they come in. Conversely, the "rightness" of much Western pop is what makes it so disappointing -- this Keane song, for instance, which just blantantly copies David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes, but makes it into a much more conventional and boring song with a "catchy" chorus. You just long for something to be wrong or odd or interesting, and it never comes (then again, by Keane's standards this stuff is "experimental" enough to be losing them some of their "mortgage rock" fans).



Anyway, for those who want to explore Afropop's wonderful oddness, Brian Shimkovitz's blog Awesome Tapes from Africa (link via Digiki) is, well, awesome. It's not that these African artists are copying their heroes any less avidly than Keane are. Just that, for an artist like Prince Okla, that's likely to be a much more eclectic range of influences: "a synthesizer-centric clash of reggae, electropop, Bollywood and local flavours" (local in his case being Northern Ghana), as Brian Shimkovitz explained to Fader.

Matthew LaVoie's African Music Treasures is also a good resource; I particularly like the Islamic devotional music here.

Not all Western music is as wrongly "right" as Keane, though. Back in February Anne Laplantine started sending me tracks from a 1996 Martin Rev album called See Me Ridin'. "I'm very surprised by these love songs, so tender and naive," she wrote, and asked me to transcribe the lyrics.

I don't find this album tender -- for me it's an astonishingly pure, disciplined and nihilist piece of conceptual art (you can listen to big chunks of it here). Rev sings "abject" 1950s-style ballad lyrics over basslines suggesting stereotypical chord sequences. The starkness and oddness of the cheap electronic arrangements cancel the cliches of the chords and lyrics, and instantly we're in the world of Leonard Cohen's "Death of a Ladies Man", or a David Lynch film.

The 1950s are presumably a formative memory for Rev, the source of all conformity and normalcy and therefore the touchstone for all weirdness and artiness. See Me Ridin' sounds like the programmed memory cells of a dying, sentimental replicant, firing at random. It sounds like someone's unconscious structured by heteronormative love songs.

I'm fascinated by how the redundancy of this music (the fact that we know already how it sounds) allows Rev to strip it down to the most perfunctory minimal gestures. And I'm fascinated by the "isolated universals" that emerge. Isolated universals are universal themes (love, sex, dating, hurt) played out in the sealed echo chamber of a long-dead era. As in a Lynch movie, the ultra-normal sounds ultimately sick here, and sentimentality and nihilism dance cheek to cheek in the gym.

Rev was probably a sick, skinny weirdo in the 50s, but in 1996 he was wreaking revenge on the normals by singing in their idiom. His record is wrong in all the right ways.

23CommentReply

robotmummies
robotmummies
ad reinhardt
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)

i always loved david lynch's songwriting. on paper the lyrics are so ridiculous but in the mouth of julee cruise and with those angelo badalamenti melodies it's so mystical and otherworldly, even while having very clear reference point as "retro".
too bad for music that even ideas like indie and experimental just became genre tags for myspace


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
sandstone chimbley and a puncheon floor

after listening through Harry Smith (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Everett_Smith)'s Anthology, the track that stands out foremost in my memory is this Al Hopkins song 'West Virginia Gals', "off" in a different way than the Afropop or the Martin Rev certainly but there's still something about the vocal delivery here that is hard to imagine hearing in more recent (= post-1920's?) American recordings..

i found a full streaming track here:
http://www.rhapsody.com/player?type=track&id=tra.7386201&__pcode=

first time i've gone to rhapsody.com so i don't know what problems might cause anyone; alternately Amazon has a 30 sec. sample here:
http://www.amazon.com/West-Virginia-Gals/dp/B000SFS8VA/


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)

hi momus! it's cool to see you mention the awesome tapes from africa blog! i've been a big follower and gotten some great music from it, though something about the tone always seemed off to me.. not sure what about it exactly..

makes me think of another point, at most tangental to the one you raise here, but interesting nonetheless. it seems that the internet has allowed (or made it much easier for) people who spend alot of their time collecting records to do something meaningful (even "post-materialistic"!) with the effort they've made hunting down people's music. especially those who have very specialized or esoteric collections, like brian for instance.

i loved you post about indian movies a few months back, and was wondering if you knew about a similar blog to brian's, focusing on indian film muic, called third floor music. it's really great as well, though again there's something about the author's way of discussing the music that seems off to me.. do you get any of that same feeling? lastly i wanted to mention that i'm hoping to start something of a similar effort, in my case for the music from thailand that i love.. i've heard you mention the music you heard through tinny speakers at your local thai grocer, and that captured my feeling pretty closely.. i thought you might be interested in this. you can visit it at http://monrakplengthai.blogspot.com/ i'd love to hear your thoughts on all this.

i have to say, though, my girlfriend will give me a very hard time if she finds out i gave a plug for my site on yours.. she calls your journal "dick opera", haha.. have you heard that one before? anyway please don't tell her! thanks alot.
peter.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 07:43 am (UTC)

Your Thai Music Blog is a great resource, Peter, like an online version of those Sublime Frequencies compilations of Cambodian cassette pop.

Thanks for signposting it! The only thing I'd say is that mp3s would be better than hosted RAR archives.

Your girlfriend is welcome to call this Dick Opera -- the usual nickname / insult I hear is "Clique Opera", though. Dick sounds more democratic!

That post about Indian film music, by the way, was up here back in April and entitled Scenes from the life of flowers. And the blog you mention on the same subject is Music from the Third Floor.


ReplyThread Parent
bikerbar
bikerbar
bikerbar
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 10:07 am (UTC)

Anorher great African music blog is Voodoo Funk

http://voodoofunk.blogspot.com/


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC)



The owner of that blog digging around for vinyl in Africa!

Edited at 2008-10-11 10:30 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
qscrisp
qscrisp
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 10:14 am (UTC)
So normal it's strange; so strange it's hard to tell whether it's right or wrong

Some very normative music that I love:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA8ykV6avZ4

How much more normative than a song called, 'I Love You'?

Also, this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWdvSAH0CCI

But I'm not really sure where they fit into the whole so-wrong-it's-right-sp-right-it's-wrong spectrum. Can something be so right that it's right? I think that's how I'd describe Brook Benton.

But is Annette Funicello so wrong she's right, or so right she's wrong? And, if the latter, is that wrong in a good way - as it would seem to be for me - or in a bad way?

My latest musical discovery is Serbian band Kodagain. I've no idea if it's right or wrong, but I've been watching this video over and over again:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Lxjv8AWPsc

And I love this, too:

http://www.cycast.co.uk/mp3.php?par=Yj0xMjc1NQ==


ReplyThread
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)

Music blogs and communities where people share new and interesting music is so much better for the cultural development in my opinion.

http://gravybread.wordpress.com/mega-mp3-site-list/


ReplyThread
bugpowered
bugpowered
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 11:01 am (UTC)

As opposed to?


ReplyThread Parent
robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 11:20 am (UTC)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/later/
?


Edited at 2008-10-11 11:22 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 11:53 am (UTC)

Music charts, record stores and filesharing programs. They're both just places where you can get what you already know about. A blog or community, on the other hand, you have a much bigger chance of finding something new and interesting.


ReplyThread Parent
inuitmonster
inuitmonster
inuitmonster
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 11:49 am (UTC)

for the phrase "mortgage rock", I salute you.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 12:47 pm (UTC)

Oh, that's not my phrase!


ReplyThread Parent
count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)

See Me Ridin' is fantastic. better than suicide. Wow. Thanks momus. (I hear Dion and Johnny Thunders in there too)

Gumboots won't load for me. I get -2048 when I hit play, andall google links for prince okla are all dead :(



twangy shadows

Edited at 2008-10-11 03:52 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC)
Iceland teeters on the brink of bankruptcy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hJdb2RwrEg_X8yNRHcVvn_OE9vKwD93LRO8O1 (http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hJdb2RwrEg_X8yNRHcVvn_OE9vKwD93LRO8O1)


the world is fucked, is everyone ready?.........................


ReplyThread
qscrisp
qscrisp
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Iceland teeters on the brink of bankruptcy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How come people only think the world is fucked when banks collapse? We've had genocide of various kinds for decades and no one seemed to give a shit. A few empty wallets and everyone shits their pants.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Iceland teeters on the brink of bankruptcy
By JANE WARDELL – 3 days ago

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — This volcanic island near the Arctic Circle is on the brink of becoming the first "national bankruptcy" of the global financial meltdown.

Home to just 320,000 people on a territory the size of Kentucky, Iceland has formidable international reach because of an outsized banking sector that set out with Viking confidence to conquer swaths of the British economy — from fashion retailers to top soccer teams.

The strategy gave Icelanders one of the world's highest per capita incomes. But now they are watching helplessly as their economy implodes — their currency losing almost half its value, and their heavily exposed banks collapsing under the weight of debts incurred by lending in the boom times.

"Everything is closed. We couldn't sell our stock or take money from the bank," said Johann Sigurdsson as he left a branch of Landsbanki in downtown Reykjavik.

The government had earlier announced it had nationalized the bank under emergency laws enacted to deal with the crisis.

"We have been forced to take decisive action to save the country," Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde said of those sweeping new powers that allow the government to take over companies, limit the authority of boards, and call shareholder meetings.

A full-blown collapse of Iceland's financial system would send shock waves across Europe, given the heavy investment by Icelandic banks and companies across the continent.

One of Iceland's biggest companies, retailing investment group Baugur, owns or has stakes in dozens of major European retailers — including enough to make it the largest private company in Britain, where it owns a handful of stores such as the famous toy store Hamley's.

Kaupthing, Iceland's largest bank and one of those whose share trading was suspended last week to stop a huge sell-off, has also invested in European retail groups.

Thousands of Britons have accounts with Icesave, the online arm of Landsbanki that regulators said was likely to file for bankruptcy after it stopped permitting customers to withdraw money from their accounts Tuesday.

To try to wrest control of the spiraling situation, the government also loaned $680 million to Kaupthing to tide it over and said it was negotiating a $5.4 billion loan from Russia to shore up the nation's finances.

The speed of Iceland's downfall in the week since it announced it was nationalizing Glitnir bank, the country's third largest, caught many by surprise despite warnings that it was the "canary in the coal mine" of the global credit squeeze.

Famous for its cod fishing industry, geysers, moonscape and the Blue Lagoon, Iceland was the site of the Cold War showdown in which Bobby Fischer of the United States defeated Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in 1972 for the world chess championship. Last year, Iceland won the U.N.'s "best country to live in" poll, with its residents deemed the most contented in the world.

No more.

Despite sunny skies Tuesday after three days of unseasonably cold weather, Reykjavik's mood remained grim — cafes were half-empty, real estate agents sat idle, and retailers reported few sales.

"I'm really starting to get worried now. Everything is bad news. I don't know what's happening," said retiree Helga Jonsdottir as she headed to a supermarket.

Icelanders are also beginning to question how a relative few were able to generate the disproportionate wealth — and associated debt — that Haarde has warned puts the entire country at risk of bankruptcy.

Iceland's reinvention from the poor cousin in Europe to one of the region's wealthiest countries dates to the deregulation of the banking industry and the creation of the domestic stock market in the mid-1990s.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

............Those free market reforms turned Iceland from a conservative, inward-looking country to one of a new generation of internationally educated young businessmen and women who were determined to give Iceland a modern profile far beyond its fishing base.

Entrepreneurs become its greatest export, as banks and companies marched across Europe and their acquisition wallets were filled by a stock market boom and a well-funded pension system. Among the purchases were the iconic Hamley's toy store and the West Ham soccer team.

Back home, the average family's wealth soared 45 percent in half a decade and gross domestic product rose at around 5 percent a year.

But the whole system was built on a shaky foundation of foreign debt.

The country's top four banks now hold foreign liabilities in excess of $100 billion, debts that dwarf Iceland's gross domestic product of $14 billion.

Those external liabilities mean the private sector has had great difficulty financing its debts, such as the more than $5.25 billion racked up by Kaupthing in five years to help fund British deals.

Iceland is unique "because the sheer size of its financial sector puts it in a vulnerable situation, and its currency has always been seen as a high risk and high yield," said Venla Sipila, a senior economist at Global Insight in London.

The krona is suffering in part from a withdrawal by a falloff in what are called carry trades — where investors borrow cheaply in a country with low rates, such as Japan, and invest in a country where returns, and often risks, are higher.

After watching the free-fall for several days, the Central Bank of Iceland stepped in Tuesday to fix the exchange rate of the currency at 175 — a level equal to 131 krona against the euro.

Haarde said he believed the measures had renewed confidence in the system. He also was critical of the lack of an Europe-wide response to the crisis, saying Iceland had been forced to adopt an "every-country-for-itself" mentality.

He acknowledged that Iceland's financial reputation was likely to suffer from both the crisis and the response despite strong fundamentals such as the fishing industry and clean and renewable energy resources.

As regular Icelanders begin to blame the government and market regulators, Haarde said the banks had been "victims of external circumstances."

Richard Portes of the London Business School agreed, noting the banks were well-capitalized and had not bought any of the toxic debt that has brought down banks elsewhere.

"I believe it is absolutely wrong to say these banks were reckless," said. "Quite the contrary. They were hugely unlucky."


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
Re: HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you can't make it relevant to Afropop, I'm afraid this crie de coeur is going to have to count as spam. I'm downgrading your triple A status to Baa, Anon.


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Sun, Oct. 12th, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

don't dismiss anon's jump-cuts they're the brechtian element preventing the blog from becomming hollywood


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Oct. 11th, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)

Olivier Lamm reviews the new Max Tundra album in the current Chronicart:

"In our encyclopedic attempts to identify and order the artistic gestures of the music of our time, we find a practical dilemma: on one side we put sociable records listened to in company, the kind that impress your friends at the end of the afternoon or fit the top of the bill at gigs (the current trend favours Afrobeat and Highlife compilations from Nigeria and Ghana, or novelty music played on the Moog) on the other we put those infinitely egocentric, unsexy and anti-social records which can only be appreciated in solitude and obscurity, because their positives are too hyperactive, nerdy and complicated to communicate in the hubbub of conversation. Lovers of strong sensations, robots and sound effects know that it's in density and tiny scale that the truly wicked expresses itself. Luckily for them, Max Tundra's third album is out."


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 12th, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
wrong Ness

Hi, long-time reader, first-time commenter (I think?). This thread's bait for me, because I love Afro-pop and I have gotten a lot of joy out of that Gumboot piece by Albert Nene which you cite at the top (as well as the Awesome Tapes from Africa blog, and I will check out the other). I find it interesting that you focus on Nene's "wrongness" because to me it's an extremely confident baroque performance-- sort of like a street-level Bach canon.

As for "wrongness" in general, it seems like you're making a distinction between the usual "so wrong it's right" targets -- amateur, outsider artists like the Shaggs or those found on the 365 Days Project -- and people like Martin Rev, in whose category I'd also put someone like Gary Wilson (esp. recent Gary) or Ariel Pink, and so on... sincere with a bit of amateur but a larger degree of awareness and aesthetic irony. Am I correct? And if so would the Awesome Tapes artists fall into a third category?

I'd also like to say yes, it is lucky that Max Tundra's album is coming out. It inspires a lot of sober analysis from me, and it also inspires me to call him "Steely Dan 2008" (that is a good thing) and play it over and over and over again in jittery joy.

-Spencer


ReplyThread Parent
robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Sun, Oct. 12th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)


ReplyThread